Yesterday we looked at how mouz nullified a pair of Treant/Anti-Mage comps. Today we look at the other half of the Treant story: DD Goblak’s utter dominance with the hero.
First some basic stats.
- Treant was picked 9 times in the Western Qualifiers and won 5 of those games. All 5 of those wins were on DD.
- DD played 14 games. Treant was picked by DD or banned in 13 of them.
- Treant was banned in 8 games overall. 7 of those were targeted at DD.
Those were a bit of a pain to collect, so I might be off a game or two there. Regardless, DD’s play basically defined what the hero was capable of in that tournament, and it warrants looking at in more detail. I should also mention that I’ll be exclusively looking at how DD used Treant in a strategic sense. It could very well be the case that Goblak right now is a superior Treant player from a tactical and mechanical standpoint, but that’s an entirely different analysis.
Rule #1: Play Treant as a support and get greedy with your carry, mid, and solo picks
In every game DD played, they used Treant as part of a trilane. In pubs or lower level games this isn’t such a big deal, but when the quality of the competition is higher you need to maximize the number of useful Living Armor targets. Let’s look at the non-support heroes DD ran in their Treant wins:
The basic formula is that you have a primary carry, a damage dealer, and an initiator. The 4th game listed breaks this a bit by just going 3 damage dealers, and the 5th is kinda weird in that the tri-lane carry wasn’t actually their primary carry, but they still follow the overall pattern. You really want at least two sources of early damage output in a Treant lineup in addition to whatever initiator you’re using.
And DD’s single Treant loss in the final game of the tournament?
Here they violate their own rule. Magnus and Dark Seer are initiator/utility characters. Gyrocopter is a big early damage dealer, and a potentially huge late game carry threat, but he’s not a strong midgame carry. They really needed to either pick Magnus or Dark Seer, and replace the other with a big damage threat, and preferably one with a stronger midgame autoattack than Gyro.
The other factor at play in this match is that DD chose to run a defensive trilane around the Gyro. Maybe the Alchemist/Lina/Bane combo forced this, but Alchemist beats Gyro in a straight farm-fest and Treant is absolutely helpless to do anything about this.
I should mention that all of this is in no way proof that Treant will never work outside of a trilane support. For instance, if we see a metagame shift away from Trilane vs Trilane back to 4 protect one defensive trilanes, Treant might function as a suicide solo pick. Maybe Treant could even work as solo now. But regardless of where you stick him, you can’t play for a passive early game and expect to win consistently. Given current drafting trends, trilane support Treant is the easiest way to fit him into an early aggressive lineup.
Rule #2: Pick Damage Dealers with Strong Midgames
Treant falls off after 20 minutes right? Then you want to have a team that’s going to be really strong in that 15-20 stretch. OD, Razor, and Weaver are all carries with questionable late games, but if you’re running this type of strategy none of that matters. QoP and Batrider shine in this stretch of the game. Luna and Lone Druid have late game potential, but they also have midgame strength that rivals Lifestealer.
The one possible exception is the Phantom Lancer pick that DD went with twice. Of note here is that they always paired the pick with a strong midgame damage/initiation duo, Batrider/QoP in the first game and Batrider/Lone Druid in the latter. This allows Treant to function better in a 4 protect 1 strategy.
The other factor to consider is that Phantom Lancer isn’t precisely helpless outside of the lategame. Like Anti-Mage from yesterday he’s definitely squishy pre-items, but Spirit Lance and illusions allow him to contribute to larger fights without putting himself in as much danger. Phantom Lancer is also more resilient to disruption (the general kind, not Shadow Demon) than Anti-Mage. His early game is much less item dependent, thanks in a large part to his high agility growth. With just levels and Tranquils he can transition to the jungle once the lanes get too dangerous.
In short, DD’s Treant/Phantom Lancer lineups were much more resilient than the Treant/Anti-Mage lineups yesterday. One thing I should mention here is that perhaps part of this is the Anti-Mage players making the mistake to go for a Battlefury build in a Treant comp. Building Anti-Mage for early aggression while treating Living Armor as a free Vanguard might be a better strategy for making sure your team doesn’t get bullied around before “I have finished farming” can kick in.
Rule #3: Living Armor allows you to violate lane and metagame conventions — take advantage of it.
The first game of the tournament where DD could actually get Treant before he was banned, DD ran an Outworld Destroyer mid and Enigma suicide lane. Both of these are risky options (the latter a bit moreso) but Living Armor allowed them to get away with it. I suspect a lot of teams don’t even consider mid OD a serious option because of the risk involved, but Living Armor mitigates that risk in a big way, which in turn opens up your drafting options.
Take Weaver. I generally don’t like Weaver as a pick. He’s counterable to burst, and preventing this often encourages an early Linken’s purchase which just accentuates Weaver’s tendency to fall off in the late game. But he does have a ton of early game potential, especially when it comes to frustrating Lifestealer trilanes. Living Armor amplifies this potential for early aggression and turns Weaver into a completely different pick than he would be without it.
But really the crown jewel of this strategy was when RoX.KIS picked a Zeus mid and DD countered by sending Luna mid. Who the hell studies the Luna vs Zeus 1v1 matchup, let alone the Luna + Living Armor vs Zeus matchup? It was a complete trouncing, and I can’t really blame the Zeus player in the least. Living Armor allows a completely unparalleled element of unpredictability when it comes to laning, and good Treant comps will take advantage of this.
I think that does it for Treant, but while we’re here, let’s talk about a few of the other interesting hero trends in the Western Qualifiers.
- Slark doesn’t really need much of a mention given the hype he’s been getting. His picks were restricted to a couple teams, but he’s definitely a developing threat.
- People have been talking about Magnus’ 5-10 record and how teams have finally figured him out. Teams are definitely adapting, but one tournament result isn’t enough to rule him out as a threat. Afterall, no one in their right mind would say that Nature’s Prophet has been “solved” just because he went 5-8. I will say that Magnus may have played a role in Puck’s 10-6 performance, but I’d have to go back and look at the match-ups more in detail to check that they ran into each other as often as my memory tells me they did.
- What does stand out to me as a potential trend is Lone Druid’s 13-4 performance. I have to wonder whether Armlet bear has significantly boosted his effectiveness. It’s definitely taken over as the de facto build for the hero.
- And while we’re talking about Lone Druid, DD as a team seems to prefer to try to jam popular hero picks rather than fight for them in the draft. For example, if I counted correctly they only used Lifestealer twice in their fourteen games. Nonetheless, they definitely compete for Lone Druid, but when they couldn’t get him in the finals they brought out an interesting counter in Razor. He actually was drafted twice by DD and I only saw the first game, but Razor definitely frustrated Lone Druid with very liberal use of Static Link. I don’t know if it will have legs, but it’s something to keep an eye on.